The "most important meal of the day" is the one we usually spend the least time preparing. But, hey, we're busy people with things to do and phones to scroll. Weekdays are too short for double-boiling hollandaise and nailing the perfect poached egg. Freshly squeezed juice? No way, OJ.
Thankfully, quality breakfast essentials can be found at most major retailers. They may not be the breakfasts of champions, but for most mornings supermarket muesli, jam-slathered toast or an egg-stuffed English muffin hit the spot.
We bring you this brekkie shopping guide to sort the wholewheat from the chaff. Toast. Spread. Shake. Soak. Eat.
The tasting panel
Merna Taouk Owner of Crumpets by Merna, specialising in small-batch baked goods available Australia-wide.
Michael Rantissi Owner-chef of Kepos & Co and Kepos Street Kitchen, Sydney.
Callan Boys National food and drink writer for Good Food.
From left: IXL, Grandessa and Beerenberg strawberry jams. Photo: James Brickwood
IXL Strawberry Jam, 480g, $3.50
An Aussie icon still made domestically, but now with about 40 per cent foreign ingredients. "It's shockingly sweet," says Rantissi. "You can tell by the thick texture there's a lot of [gelling agent] pectin, too. It tastes like cooked down strawberry syrup with real fruit added later."
Grandessa Signature Premium Strawberry Jam, 370g, $2.39
Aldi's jam will cut through the cream on a scone, but is too sweet for toast alone. "You wouldn't use this ratio of sugar to fruit for homemade jam," says Rantissi. "But commercial products need shelf life, and sugar is a preservative."
Beerenberg Australian Strawberry Jam, 300g, $4.95
Good Food Taste Test Award: Silver
"For a commercial jam, this is very good," says Taouk. "I like the hint of citrus, too." Made in the Adelaide Hills with local strawbs, the preserve is rich in colour with nice caramelisation. "You can tell it's thick from natural reduction, not just pectin," says Rantissi.
Tip: Jam too sweet for toast? Whiz a spoonful with yoghurt, milk and fruit for a quick smoothie.
From left: Presha Fruit, The Juice Brothers and Pick'd orange juices. Photo: James Brickwood
Presha Fruit Cold Pressed Valencia Orange Juice, 1L, $5.00
"It's funny how cold-pressed juice was massive a couple of years ago, then almost overnight you stopped hearing about it," says Rantissi. "Anyway, this is quite watery and doesn't have much fl avour." In fact, it tastes like the juice served in plastic containers on long-haul flights.
The Juice Brothers Orange Juice 1.5L, $7.00
Good Food Taste Test Award: Silver
Read the bottle's fi ne print next to the old-timey logo and you'll discover that Juice Brothers is part of Lion Dairy & Drinks, owned by Japanese giant Kirin. Nevertheless, this is a damn fine beverage. "It has a fresh aroma and flavour," says Taouk. "Plus I feel like I'm getting fibre from the pulp."
Pick'd 100% Orange Juice With Pulp, 2L, $4.49
"This is very acidic – very sharp," says Rantissi. Strangely, Aldi's pulpy OJ has tropical passionfruit notes even though Australian oranges are the only listed ingredient. "The colour is too bright for my liking as well," says Taouk. "It doesn't look completely natural."
From left: Carman's, GoldenVale and Murray River muesli. Photo: James Brickwood
Carman's Classic Fruit & Nut Muesli, 500g, $6.00
Good Food Taste Test Award: Bronze
"It's pleasant enough, with a nice toasted fl avour," says Rantissi. Carman's Classic is heavy on the almonds, with a generous whack of golden syrup to boot. "Also, there's not too much dried fruit, which I like," says Taouk. "Fruit should really be eaten fresh."
GoldenVale Swiss Style Toasted Premium Muesli, 500g, $3.99
"Wow, this is sweet," says Rantissi. That has a lot to do with honey-toasted oats and a dried fruit content of almost 30 per cent. "It takes so much chewing," says Taouk. "Avoid it if you don't like picking blueberries out of your teeth."
Murray River 100% Organic Tropical Muesli, 400g, $7.50
Good Food Taste Test Award: Gold
Certified organic and textured with Brazil nuts and dates, there was little the panel could fault with this muesli. "It feels good for you, not sweet at all," says Rantissi. "The aftertaste is pleasant and makes you want more. I love the coconut flakes, but I'm a coconut fan generally."
From left: Mighty Soft, Coles and Tip Top English muffins. Photo: James Brickwood
Tip Top Original English Muffins, 500g, $5.00
"It's just white bread, really, but a little bit chewier and yeastier," says Rantissi. "That's not to say
they're bad – white bread is white bread. Whack a fried egg and crispy bacon in there and you're going to be pretty happy, especially with a nice amount of good-quality mayo."
Coles English Muffins, 400g, $2.10
"Gee, it's creepy how much the Coles and Tip Top muffins taste alike," says Rantissi. Indeed, the muffins list near-identical ingredients (hello flour, maize polenta and canola oil), but the Coles version is slightly smaller (and the better option based on the price for a six-pack).
Mighty Soft English Muffins, 378g, $3.80
Good Food Taste Test Award: Bronze
These have a similar taste to the others, but with a fluffier texture. They're also the easiest muffins to pull apart without tearing. "I can always taste the vinegar in commercial muffins," says Taouk. "It's often used to balance fl avour and provide that artisan sourdough taste without proper fermentation."
If you can spare the time, Michael Rantissi strongly recommends bypassing the supermarket and squeezing fresh oranges at home for your morning juice.
"It's just so much tastier than the bottled stuff," he says. "At Kepos we use whatever organic oranges are in season, although they can vary in their sweetness, so make sure you like the flavour before juicing. Sometimes we will go without orange juice in the restaurant for weeks if the taste isn't right."
To make breakfast a real weekend event, top with something fizzy from the bottle shop.
For a super easy start, Di Keser from Melbourne brunch temple Hardware Societe suggests embracing the blini.
"I'll often buy packet blinis [at the supermarket], heat them in a pan with a little oil, and serve with cucumber, yoghurt, rocket, fresh salmon and a fried egg on the side," she says. "That's a really delicious and quick breakfast.
"Meanwhile my husband is loving Promite on toast, topped with fresh tomato, parsley, avocado and one or two boiled eggs. Chop the avocado and tomato, though – don't mush. You don't want to make guacamole."
In the realm of English muffin fillings, Keser likes grilled chorizo, melted manchego and a fried egg, while Taouk prefers hers straight up with melted maple butter from Pepe Saya. Any nice butter will do, though.
For something sweet, Keser recommends making your own bircher muesli. "Mix together oats, grated apple, Greek yoghurt and apple juice, cover and put it in the fridge overnight. Simply finish with whatever fruit is in season."
The breakfast guru adds that her favourite store-bought muesli brand is Brookfarm, available from independent grocers and health food stores nationally. "It's an outstanding product and there are loads of varieties."
Good Food Taste Test Awards
Look out for the Good Food awards logos on winning products in supermarkets and grocery stores – your guide to the best available.
Gold Score 4.5/5
Silver Score 4/5
Bronze Score 3.5/5